Volvo concept previews sleek look of future wagons, simpler interiors

Volvo says the Concept Estate's low hood, sleek silhouette and glass roof make it look dynamic yet capable.

Volvo previewed the sleek look of its future station wagons today with the Concept Estate, which also reveals the automaker's intention to offer simpler interiors where a large touchscreen replaces most buttons and controls.

The three-door sports wagon, which debuts next week at the Geneva auto show, is the latest Volvo concept to show the brand's future look and feel ahead of launching the crucial second-generation XC90 premium large crossover later this year.

Volvo says the Concept Estate shows how the automaker plans to capitalize on the success of current-generation wagons such as the V70 and XC70 while also taking cues from vintage models. For instance, the concept's rear borrows from the design of the 1800 ES from the early 1970s. The 1800 models also provided inspiration for the concept's two-spoke steering wheel, instrument panel and dials.

Like Volvo's other prototypes -- the Concept Coupe and the Concept XC Coupe -- the face of the Concept Estate also is characterized by a floating grille.

Tablet-like touchscreen

Inside the concept the main focus was to offer simplicity, which is why a large tablet-like touchscreen control panel in the center console has replaced the buttons and controls found in most cars.

"The basic idea is to organize controls and information in a perfectly intuitive and user-friendly way," Volvo Senior Vice President of Design Thomas Ingenlath said in a statement. "Everything is exactly where you expect it to be, making the drive more enjoyable, efficient and safe."

Volvo says the touchscreen will be the main control panel for the automaker's new in-car user experience. It replaces all buttons and controls except for crucial functions such as volume, hazard lights and window heaters. It also interacts with the digital instrument cluster in front of the driver.

Volvo Interior Design Direct Robin Page said in the statement that removing the buttons and controls "is like being freed from a pair of handcuffs."

"The concept car showcases how this user interface will be integrated in our new car generation," Page added.

The model poised to benefit first from the features displayed in Volvo's three concepts is the new XC90. It has been 13 years since the original XC90 debuted. That model used to be Volvo's No. 1 seller globally with annual volumes of more than 80,000 but last year it ranked sixth in the carmaker's lineup with sales of 23,784, down 24 percent from 2012.

Volvo CEO Hakan Samuelsson told Automotive News Europe last month that he expects sales of the new XC90 to be at or near 100,000 a year.

Deliveries of the new XC90 are set to being in early 2015.

You can reach Douglas A. Bolduc at dbolduc@crain.com -- Follow Douglas A. on Twitter: BolducANE2014

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